By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com May 12 2014 7:30 AM ET
Being a group so small in number, and with so few people actually knowing one of us, transgender individuals and causes are often invisible — and, therefore misunderstood — to the general public. While straight, cisgender allies of gay rights are plentiful, finding cisgender allies of trans rights and causes is a much greater challenge.
But it's not impossible. Here are 12 cisgender individuals who have made a positive impact on the lives of transgender people through their words and actions.
By no means is this a comprehensive list. Instead, we're highlighting those who don't simply tell others of their allyship, but who prove it through action.
California Governor Jerry Brown (left) and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, legislators
In 2013, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (left) introduced the School Success and Opportunity Act, a bill that would grant protections to California students in areas including public accommodations, class choice, and extracurricular activities. Brown signed the bill into law in August of 2013.
Dave Zirin, journalist
Zirin has long been a supporter of LGBT rights and is a shining example of how an ally conducts himself. In the wake of Caleb Hannan's infamous "Dr. V" story, Zirin supported trans voices by sharing critiques of the piece by trans people. "Being an ally is not always rushing to be white straight cis-guy against oppression, but using leverage to promote marginalized voices," Zirin tweeted earlier this year. "A good ally is like an offensive lineman. You gotta clear space. If people recognize, great. If people say your name too much, you effed up."
Melissa Harris-Perry, television personality
Melissa Harris-Perry frequently uses her MSNBC show as a platform to highlight trans individuals and issues. Her 2012 segment, “Being Transgender in America” featured three transgender individuals (Mel Wymore, Mara Keisling, and Kate Bornstein) and earned the show a 2013 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism. Additionally, Harris-Perry’s show has devoted significant blocks of time to covering trans issues and is one of the only TV platforms that frequently invites transgender guests such as CeCe McDonald, Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Kate Burgess onto the program.
Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America
Last year, Cohen introduced an amendment to the AFL-CIO’s constitution that banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. The amendment passed, giving trans workers the backing of the nation’s largest labor federation.
Gail Simone, comic author
Comic book author Gail Simone made history last year when she introduced Alysia Yeoh, a transgender character, in Batgirl. Yeoh marks one of the first times a trans character has been featured in mainstream comics.
Jill Soloway, producer, director, and writer
Earlier this year, Soloway — known for her work on shows like Six Feet Under and United States of Tara — wrote the pilot to Transparent, an Amazon original series centered around a trans woman coming to terms with her identity and her three adult children. Working closely with GLAAD’s Jennifer Finney Boylan and activist and scholar Zackary Drucker, Soloway has said she intends to include a number of trans characters that will be played by trans actors as the season continues, and seems set on bringing nuance to a topic that is far too often sensationalized.
Tina Vasquez, writer
Earlier this year, writer Tina Vasquez penned a lengthy feature for Bitch magazine titled, “It’s Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women.” In the feature, Vasquez profiles a number of trans individuals and highlights the ongoing battle this community faces with “gender-critical” or “trans-exclusionary” radical feminists.
Jeph Jacques, webcomic creator
In 2012, Jacques did something simple: he introduced a trans character into his popular Questionable Content webcomic. “I have to admit, I am nervous about posting this comic, because including a trans person in my cast is something I have wanted to do for years and I really, really want to do a good job of it,” Jacques wrote at the time. “One of the major themes of QC, I think, is of inclusion, and this seemed like a pretty important thing to include. I have given it a lot of thought and done a lot of research, so hopefully I won't screw up. I'll do my best, anyway.”
Molly and John Knefel, podcasters
These two Brooklyn siblings host the Radio Dispatch podcast, providing a thoughtful viewpoint on the topics of politics, race, gender, and inequality. The two have provided in-depth coverage of trans issues, including a number of episodes detailing the “Dr. V” debacle. Additionally, these two have a long history of inviting transgender guests on the show.
Alicia Menendez, journalist
Recently, Menendez played host to Janet Mock on her Fusion show, AM Tonight. Menendez and Mock flipped the traditional script of a cisgender journalist asking a trans person invasive personal questions, and instead featured Mock asking Menendez questions like, “Do you have a vagina?” and “Do you feel your sense of self, your ‘cissness,’ holds you back in any way?” In all, the segment served as a powerful example of how absurd the media can often be when it comes to trans identities.